Deebo Samuel emerged as the 49ers' most versatile offensive weapon down the stretch of their Super Bowl run. He won't be available to help them start another.
San Francisco's promising second-year wide receiver is having surgery Thursday to repair a broken foot and is expected to miss 12-16 weeks, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Samuel suffered a Jones fracture on Tuesday during a throwing session with teammates in Nashville, Tennessee. The team later confirmed Samuel underwent a procedure on his left foot Thursday.
Samuel could miss up to a handful of games to start the season given his reported timeline. He offered a more promising outlook on Twitter, however:
Still, it's a big blow for a 49ers team that figures to contend for the league crown again, and a player who battled injuries throughout his college career. Samuel proved to be a vital piece in just his first season in the Bay, catching 57 passes for 802 yards. Only All-Pro tight end George Kittle posted higher totals. The rookie's 14.1 yards per catch led all 49ers receivers with at least 15 receptions. His contribution in the run game was comparably valuable to the league's No. 2 scoring offense, as he carried the ball 14 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
Samuel tallied 127 receiving yards and 102 rushing yards over three playoff games, including 92 yards from scrimmage against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. His absence will put a greater onus on head coach Kyle Shanahan to employ a promising but unproven cast of wide receivers.
With Emmanuel Sanders off to New Orleans, Kendrick Bourne (30 receptions, 358 yards) is the 49ers' next-leading returning wideout. San Francisco will also look for contributions from 2020 first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk, 2019 third-rounder Jalen Hurd, who missed his entire rookie season with a back injury, and possibly Dante Pettis, who's caught just 38 passes over his first two seasons.
On Friday, the 49ers took another hit to their receiving corps as wideout/kick returner Richie James Jr. sustained a broken bone in his wrist while training and is likely to miss at least two months, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported, per sources.